Guild Wars 2: Mike O'Brien Interview

We interview ArenaNet president Mike O'Brien about Guild War 2's first year.

With the first anniversary of Guild Wars 2 happening today, ZAM along with other media outlets (including Massively, MMORPG and GuildWars2Hub) were invited to a roundtable interview with Mike O'Brien, president of ArenaNet, to ask about the first year of the game and get a glimpse of where it is going in year two. Mike answered almost all of our questions and was joined by Chris Lye, global brand director for ArenaNet.

To begin the interview, Mike talked a little about getting into the Living World and where it is today.

"The Living World and our commitment of a two week cadence is a difficult thing to live up to, so we have been gearing up to be able to do that. I think if you see some of the recent releases we have done, look at clockwork chaos as an example, players are banding together. I think you really do get a sense that the world is changing all the time.

I wrote in my blog post that for me where it really comes together is where we have dynamic events that we shipped the game with and then we have living world events going on. I think where it really feels right is when you are just fighting for the world and you don't even think about the fact of whether this was always in the game or if this was an event that was added in recently. You don't think about the mechanics of how all this is happening; there is just something going on in the world and I'm going to fight for my world.

So it's great to see players really coming together to fight for their world. We really want to make their actions have a persistent mark on the world, let players leave their mark on the world and let them direct where the world goes through the living story. You saw that with our Cutthroat Politics release and we are really excited to deliver content this rapidly and keep the world alive."

A fellow reporter followed up Mike's retrospective by asking what the single biggest lesson ArenaNet has learned in the first year.

"I'll start with the single biggest challenge which was delivering content at the pace which we wanted to deliver content. We released the game and a common question from players was if we would be able to support the game without a monthly subscription fee. Internally we thought subscription or not this was a living world game and we wanted the world to feel alive. We wanted to release content more rapidly than anyone else and not have a business model dictate our frequency of content.

The biggest challenge to increasing the frequency is the mechanics to be able to do that. You don't think about that, and as a player you never should, but in order to do rapid content updates you need many teams creating content in parallel, because any one team cannot go from conception to release as fast as we are releasing new content. Then, in order to develop all of this in parallel, you need the underlying technology and work-flow to be able to support it so teams can create content without stepping on each other’s toes while still being able to assume the existence of content that would be released before it.

Then you need a team that is practiced at it. You start this and it is a really new challenge for everyone that is doing it, but over time our teams get better and better at delivering this kind of content. I said in the blog post that I think this is just an amazing tool. We started doing this and we started carefully because this is a really big thing to ramp up. You saw in the early Flame and Frost updates that we were treading gently in how much content we released and how world impacting it was. Then as we got into it, the teams got better and now we have more power to be able to make substantial world changing content every two weeks.

I think it is just an amazing power that we have now to keep the game constantly changing. So it has been a year; a year since we were able to build our company to be able to do this. It has been a reworking of a lot of our underlying technology and production processes, but we did it! What I think about is, look at the most recent release then think about an entire year of those world changing releases every two weeks. That's the kind of power we have in our grasp right now and that is what gets me excited."


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