Guild Wars 2: Colin Johanson Interview

ZAM speaks to ArenaNet's Game Director on the future of GW2


No other MMO has made an impact on the industry as much as Guild Wars 2 (GW2) has this past year. Aside from the plethora of prizes it has won from journalists and the public alike, its launch has sent ripples through the industry that can be seen in various upcoming titles.

After launching ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 manifesto for the first half of 2013, Game Director Colin Johanson set a precious hour aside to talk to me about the response to the outline, the ideas behind the plotted course and what else might be over the horizon.

In part one of the interview, we focused on guesting, guild content, encounter design and more. Be sure to return tomorrow for part two which primarily concerns Guild Wars 2’s PvP content.


One of the features expected at launch of Guild Wars 2 was guesting. It will finally land on January 28 and I asked Colin what had caused such a delay to this much anticipated facility.

“Guesting has proved far more complicated than we thought it was going to be, we’ve actually had it almost done in the past two releases and each time right before we were getting ready to release it, QA found a major bug with it and we ended up having to pull back out and not release it.

The biggest thing is just making sure that it’s really stable, it’s easy to understand how to use and how to connect and it lets you know how to get to another server and how to communicate when you’re on that other world. Those are all challenges.

In the initial design we did it quick so, you know, “Let’s get people on different worlds and play with each other,” and we found that people didn’t understand where they were, there wasn’t very clear messaging on how to get there and the process needed to be really streamlined. So we cleaned that process up a bit and we found out there were some issues with it right before the WintersDay release, there were some bugs where players could have a lot of issues and couldn’t get back, or would get stuck and we figured we should wait and put out the version that is as clean and safe as possible rather than rush it out the door with any potential issues.

It’s taken longer than we would have liked but hopefully we’ve got a really stable and more polished version of it ready to go and we’re really excited to get this out there.”


I asked about the response from the public on guesting’s imminent arrival and what difference Johanson felt it will make to the game.

"The overarching response has been extremely positive. I think people who are really into WvW are thrilled to finally have a limiting factor that people will have to start taking where they live a lot more seriously now."

Though the system will help players join friends on different servers, it will not function across different regions (such as the EU and US). Fans who had been expecting cross-region guesting have voiced their confusion and disappointment. Something that Johanson was aware of and had anticipated:

“We definitely knew that was coming and we knew that is something that people really want to do. Unfortunately the way our server architecture is set up and the way our back end data structure is set up, it’s just not something that is feasible for us from a standpoint of providing a top quality experience.

In Guild Wars 2, because the worlds are giant, open, persistent world maps where there’re players all running around together; how the game runs and how the performance works is completely dependent on how close to the data center you are that you’re operating in. It is not a very good experience potentially to be playing with people across the entire world and it is something that is much more complicated for us to try to solve, so for the purposes of us trying to provide the best possible experiences for people that we can, it’s something that we didn’t want to do.


In Guild Wars 1 it was a lot easier for us to do and it was a sub-optimal experience, you would have a lot more latency and ping times were a lot worse, because of all of the things we do in Guild Wars 2, for example having 3D movement space and persistent maps, it’s much more difficult for us to do and having worlds that you live on, those are the big technical ramifications that prevent us from doing that.”


 Continue to Page 2 for news on Trading Post Preview, Colin's response to the fear of raids and more >>>>>>

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# Jan 21 2013 at 6:41 PM Rating: Decent
1 post
Surely they should let the players decide whether they want to put up with the additional ping, rather than enforcing it?

Lots of players play games on US servers from all around the world. I play on the US servers from Australia, why is that any different from a UK player guesting on the US server?
I love this game.
# Jan 21 2013 at 6:35 PM Rating: Decent
1 post
However, after Wintersday fiasco (no grouping for toyapocalipse and most seasonal events), it hurt my will to play.

Sadly, GW2 needs more "end game" content, or w/e you want to call it.

I know they gonna add it more, so I'll be waiting to check it out, sadly, wont be logging in till then.

Logged in today and I had nothing to do except grind mats or run FotM over and over.

FotM was genious. But I'd completly change how it works to prevent it's grind. I know they said they learned from it, but still...

Next content update must come ASAP.
GW2 lost me after two and a bit months...
# Jan 21 2013 at 5:57 PM Rating: Decent
2 posts
GW2 lost me after two and a bit months as it just got so boring.

Once you finish your character's personal story, and have done most of the hearts on the map (the ones that aren't bugged, at least), and crafted a bit, and done some PvP and dungeons, you get this feeling, "OK, so is that it?"

And this is the problem with theme park games... once you do them, they're done. Unless you have a very specific kind of personality (some might say personality disorder), doing it all over again is just pointless behaviour.

I guess the saving grace is that there's no monthly fee. But, aside from that, GW2 wasn't half the game I thought it would be. And that makes me very sad because the people who made it seemed to know what they were talking about.

The MMO community is starting to turn back to the concept of sandbox MMOs (after SWG terrified so many in the community, early on), and I can only hope that attitude continues, because theme park MMOs are a dead end.
GW2 lost me after two and a bit months...
# Jan 22 2013 at 6:28 AM Rating: Excellent
Word Kludger
36 posts
I disagree that theme park MMOs are a dead end, but they do require a lot of work to keep delivering regular content. It's something that Rift excelled at, and The Secret World and SWTOR are learning.

That said, there's a lot to be said for making MMOs more sandboxy, either through extended gameplay components, or by overlaying themepark on top of the sandbox. It's something that games like EVE grapple with (Jon Lander mentioned it when I interviewed him), and something that Everquest Next will need to consider.
Gareth "Gazimoff" Harmer
Senior Contributing Editor | ZAM Network
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