Interview with ArenaNet's Chris Whiteside

ZAM interviews Chris Whiteside, Design Director at ArenaNet, about Guild Wars 2's Living World.

Last week ZAM had the opportunity to interview Chris Whiteside, Guild Wars 2’s Design Director. The topic of the interview was all about ArenaNet’s Living World and its commitment to the fast passed release schedule of a new content patch every two weeks.

Chris started with the beginning of the Living World. After launch ArenaNet was looking at what to do moving forward with content releases. The term living, breathing world had been around in many games as a marketing tool and ArenaNet set out to discover how they could make the term a reality in Guild Wars 2.

The key goal was to try to update the game as much as possible. ArenaNet soon realized that doing this was highly complex, especially the logistics of creating and patching the game so frequently.

Another concern with moving to content patches every two weeks was burning out and not having the time for the team to be creative. To solve this ANet expanded the living world team to include four separate teams that rotate content releases. Now, it isn’t ANet rushing content out in two weeks, but each team having months to create quality content.

The living world teams include developers of every discipline. Each team will have its own artists, programmers, QA and a producer. This breaks from the more traditional studio hierarchy where developers work on teams within their own discipline. This helped with the logistics as content is created within an individual team and not passed along or managed across multiple disciplines. I asked Chris how many developers make up a single living world team, but he didn’t know for certain how many there were so wasn’t comfortable saying. He did say that there are over 200 people currently working on GW2.

The technology also needed to be updated to allow the faster cadence of releases. Chris harkened back to release and how you learn more about your game after it is launched than you knew about it before. There were lots of things ANet needed to fix moving from the traditional setup to the small team setup. This meant changing from everyone working on one stream of content to the system allowing multiple streams to be worked on in parallel, which took some time for ANet to do. Chris mentioned that ANet was already reorganizing the team structure while they were building the tech to allow the new team structure.

Multiple Patch Arcs

Some of the previous living stories, such as the Secrets of Southsun and the Last Stand releases, were connected across more than a single content patch. I asked Chris if these similar content patches are created by a single living world team or if the second patch is rotated to the next team.

The answer is that it isn’t something that is constant across every patch. In some cases it is the same team that works on both parts of an arc. It is also not something that has to be completely contained to a single team. Another team can take up features to help finish the content.

Weekly Content?

When ANet moved to release content patches every two weeks, it also included content that was time delayed to fall in the week between each patch. I asked Chris if having meaningful content every week was something that they wanted to build toward.

Chris wanted to make sure that this content is not misconstrued as weekly content. The living world cadence is every two weeks. ANet doesn’t want to build expectations for every week so that players are disappointed if every week isn’t great content.

Having meaningful content every week would be difficult to test all of that content while up and running with delivery of content. He said that ANet needs to get better at getting the current two week content release down to having zero bugs on release. The delayed content release he said, is good for working on ANet’s automatic delivery system. Having that technology is good as it’s not a build, but the content just switches on which is valuable to have as a delivery method.

Base Camp, Hunger Royale and Expansions! -->

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